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Trees

Despite the cliché to the contrary, it's often a good thing to be able to identify specific trees within a forest.

Ceiba -- (Ceiba pentandra) -- Also known as the kapok tree, ceiba trees are typically emergent (their large umbrella-shape canopies emerge above the forest canopy), making the species among the tallest trees in the tropical forest. Reaching as high as 61m (200 ft.), their thick columnar trunks often have large buttresses. Ceiba trees may flower as little as once every 5 years, especially in wetter forests. Prime Viewing: Countrywide.

Guanacaste -- (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) -- The guanacaste, or tubroos, tree is one of the largest trees found in Central America. It can reach a total elevation of over 40m (130 ft.), its straight trunk comprising 9.1 to 12m (30-40 ft.) of the height (the trunk's diameter measures more than 1.8m/6 ft.). Prime Viewing: Countrywide. A particularly impressive specimen gives its name to Guanacaste National Park.

Gumbo Limbo -- (Bursera simaruba) -- The bark of the gumbo limbo is perhaps its most distinguishing feature: A paper-thin outer layer is red when peeled off the tree, revealing a bright green bark underneath. The bark is reportedly used as a remedy for gum disease; and gumbo-limbo bark tea allegedly alleviates high blood pressure. Another remarkable property of this tree is its ability to root from its cut branches. When a branch is cut and planted right end up, roots will develop and leaves will sprout, forming a new tree within a few years' time. Prime Viewing: Primary and secondary forests, countrywide.

Strangler Fig -- (Ficus aurea) -- This parasitic tree gets its name from the fact that it envelops and eventually strangles its host tree. The strangler fig actually begins as an epiphyte, whose seeds are deposited high in a tree's canopy by bats, birds, or monkeys. The young strangler then sends long roots down to the earth. The sap of the strangler fig is used to relieve burns. Prime Viewing: Primary and secondary forests, countrywide.

Caribbean Pine -- (Pinus caribaea) -- This fast-growing pine species is the defining tree of the Mountain Pine Ridge area of western Belize. The tree is actually fire resistant, and benefits from controlled burns. The resin is used as an adhesive and insect repellent. Prime Viewing: Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.

Mahogany -- (Swietenia macrophylla) -- The national tree of Belize, the mahogany tree can grow to heights of over 30m (100 ft.). Mahogany wood is heavy and strong, and resists rot and termites. From its wood, artisans and carpenters craft the world's finest furniture. Prime Viewing: Primary and secondary rainforests, countrywide.

Craboo -- (Byrsonima crassifolia) -- The craboo's flowers are beautiful orange and yellow racemes about 15cm (6 in.) long. The tree also bears a small orange-yellow berry, whose flavor varies from bland to sweet, acidic, or even cheeselike. The flowers usually bloom around April, with fruits gathered around June. Hurricane Iris destroyed many Belizean craboo trees in 2001. Prime Viewing: Countrywide.

Flowers

Belize has over 4,000 species of flowering plants, including some 250 orchid species.

Black Orchid -- (Encyclia cochleatum) -- The black orchid is the national flower of Belize. The plant's most distinguishing feature is its lip, which resembles the shape of a clamshell valve. The flower is a deep blackish color with purple veins, and its leaves are a greenish-yellow with purple spots. The black orchid is sometimes likened to an octopus because of its straggling "tentacles" and its ability to thrive in a damp environment. Prime Viewing: Countrywide, particularly in moist environments.

Heliconia -- (Heliconia collinsiana) -- There are over 250 species of tropical heliconia. The flowers of this species are darkish pink in color, and the underside of the plants' large leaves are coated in white wax. Prime Viewing: In the Toledo and Stann Creek districts.

Hot Lips -- (Psychotria poeppigiana) -- Also called "devil's ear" in Belize, its small white flowers (inside the red "lips") attract a variety of butterflies and hummingbirds. Prime Viewing: In the undergrowth of dense forests, countrywide.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.